Strive Toward Excellence Program

Strive Toward Excellence Program (STEP) is an endowed college-preparatory program for 7th - 8th grade students from Akron area schools. Students meeting the criteria are eligible for a scholarship to The University of Akron.

In 1988, The Firestone Trust Fund awarded The University of Akron a $3 million gift from which an endowment was established to create The Firestone Fellows Strive Toward Excellence Program, otherwise known as STEP.

Students are inducted into STEP while they are enrolled in the sixth grade and are designated "Firestone Fellows." They remain in STEP for two years before progressing to the University's Upward Bound Classic or Upward Bound Math and Science program, which assists them throughout high school. Program graduates who attend The University of Akron are awarded scholarships.

Program Objectives:

  1. To provide students with attitude, skills, support and financial assistance to pursue and successfully attain a college degree.

  2. To assist students approaching adolescence to develop the positive self-identities necessary to resist pressure that devalues academic excellence.

  3. To assist students in developing identifiable skills in writing, mathematics and analytical thinking, which will enable them to enroll in the appropriate college prep courses.

  4. To provide parents with information and resources to support their children in preparation for a college education.

  5. To assist students in financing their college education at The University of Akron, through the awarding of annual scholarships.


During the academic year, students attend their district school and extensive follow-up is provided. School visits are made each grading period by the program coordinator and/or academic advisor to review students' academic and social performance. Tutorial and enrichment opportunities are established to further enhance the students' academic progress.

In addition, a series of mandatory workshops are provided for the Firestone Fellows and their parents. The workshop topics are designed to help both students and parents during this period of adolescent adjustment by focusing on academic and social/emotional issues. Workshop topics include: Development of Positive Self-Image, Effects of Peer Pressure, College Preparatory Course Selections and Cultural Awareness. Field trips, cultural excursions and recreational activities are provided to the students and, where applicable, their parents.

During the summer, students attend a six-week intensive academic enrichment program at The University of Akron. Students receive instruction Monday through Friday and are provided with multiple hands-on learning experiences in English, composition, mathematics and the sciences. They attend additional courses in speech/debate, study skills, drama, dance and swimming. All instructors work together throughout the summer to reinforce the importance and accessibility of a college education to the students.


Twenty (20) students are selected yearly from Akron area schools to be inducted into STEP. They must meet the following criteria to gain consideration:

  1. Be enrolled in the sixth grade
  2. Demonstrate an above average level of academic success
  3. Desire a college degree
  4. Meet federal income guidelines and/or be a potential first-generation college student
  5. Complete an extensive application
  6. Obtain recommendations from designated school personnel
  7. Participate in a face-to-face interview process that includes both the student and a parent/guardian


Forms can be completed online (PDF), then printed and signed

Application form

Recommendation forms:


  • Call STEP at 330-972-6683
  • Contact school counselor